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SIU Med School Joins National Precision Medicine Initiative

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Largest study of long-term health to launch later this year SIU Med School Joins National Precision Medicine Initiative

Patients of SIU HealthCare will soon have the opportunity to participate in one of the largest prospective studies of health and illness ever attempted in the United States.

Southern Illinois University School of Medicine has joined the national Precision Medicine Initiative, which was announced by President Obama in 2015 and is led by the National Institutes of Health. It aims to enroll 1 million or more volunteers to follow their health over time and improve medicine’s ability to prevent and treat disease based on individual differences in lifestyle, environment and genetics.

“The data collected will help physicians and scientists examine how genetic, lifestyle and environmental standards influence health, which can help doctors prevent and treat illnesses,” said Wiley Jenkins, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and science director of the population health science program at SIU School of Medicine.

The goal of the Precision Medicine Initiative “is to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes, and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier,” according to the NIH.

SIU School of Medicine is part of the Illinois Precision Medicine Consortium Cohort Program, which comprises Northwestern University, University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The Illinois Consortium is one of only four collaborations the NIH selected to receive a grant to recruit patients. The Illinois program’s five-year budget is approximately $45 million, pending the availability of funds from the NIH. SIU School of Medicine is projected to receive more than $2 million over five years to recruit nearly 13,000 patients from diverse ethnic, social and economic backgrounds. NIH hopes to meet its 1 million enrollment goal by 2020.

SIU’s involvement will ensure that recruitment is a statewide endeavor that includes rural areas, which are an NIH priority population.

John Flack, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, is a co-primary investigator for the grant with Jenkins. “Participating in the Precision Medicine Initiative will allow us to do things that virtually no other study has allowed us to do,” he said. “We will better understand how a person’s environment and habits can lead to disease and at a personal level understand why people do or do not experience certain health outcomes. This is pretty powerful.”

Males and females ages 1 year or older will be invited to participate in the study when recruitment launches later this year. Within strict privacy standards, volunteers will complete surveys, undertake medical exams, share health care records and submit samples that may include blood, urine and saliva. Participants will have ongoing access to their data through their electronic health record.

“We know that a person’s environment can impact gene expression and that genes impact how individuals respond to their environments,” Jenkins said. “Having that combined data across hundreds of thousands of people will allow researchers to understand these relationships on a larger scale.”

SIU School of Medicine recruitment partners include SIU HealthCare in Springfield, Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, Blessing Hospital in Quincy and Sarah Bush Lincoln Hospital in Mattoon. Other partners may be added.

Research reported in this press release is supported by the National Institutes of Health under Funding Opportunity Number RFA-PM-16-002.

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